Tuesday, April 27, 2010

How to Cope with Artistic Failure

Rule One: Avoid Successful People
Nothing breeds contempt like another person’s good fortune. Especially when your comic strip submission was just recently passed over in favor of a family feature titled With Three You Get Triplets. You see, I used to keep company with countless successful doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs. Prosperous, triumphant people who get to tool around in cars with four good tires while I have a $200 credit limit and had to give up carbs for financial reasons. Do you know how that made me feel? Do you know what it’s like to be the only black sheep in a pasture where everyone else shits gold?! Do you know what it’s like to attend your own college reunion dinner as the cater-waiter?!? I don’t care what my dad says, that wasn’t fucking funny!

But rather than allow myself to be swallowed whole by bitterness and jealousy, I now make sure to hang out exclusively with people who are far, far worse off than I could ever fear to be. People who make me look like Sam Walton by comparison. People who can’t tell you their life story without using the words “insolvent” or “incontinent.” People who burst into tears of joy whenever they stumble upon a nickel on the sidewalk. People who base all their career decisions on Bazooka Joe fortunes with predictable results. People who consider underwear “church clothes.” People who refer to restrooms as “indoor outhouses.” People who join religious cults for the networking opportunities. People who lose a tooth when they bite into soup. People who when told that I managed to cheat my way into a senior discount at the movies because of my prematurely ravaged looks treat me with the respect I not only always craved but also richly deserve.

Rule Two: Set Short-Term, Attainable Goals
What better way to dismiss the discouraging absence of artistic success than by having a few, smaller accomplishments to celebrate? Instead of focusing solely on the ultimate objective of landing a comic strip deal, a music contract or an acting gig, concentrate on a series of more manageable, less heartbreaking tasks. Like getting out of bed before dusk. Remembering to eat, if not meals than at least mints. Closing your bathrobe before you run errands. Stopping before you enter your fifth straight hour of video poker. Watching the news rather than watching that cobweb get progressively bigger from the vantage point of your kitchen floor. Channeling your frustration into yoga instead of yelling non-stop at your neighbor’s dog through the apartment wall. Taking a walk that doesn’t turn into a mad dash and then eventually a swan dive off an overpass. Selling something other than your hair or platelets on eBay. With just a few little achievements each month, you’ll not only stay motivated during your artistic endeavors but unlike me you’ll also avoid spending your day seeing how fast you can shave off all your body hair, and then six months later trying to break that record.

Rule Three: Know When to Call It Quits
Eventually no matter how much you truly believe in your talent and goals, mounting bills may unfortunately force you to pack it in and seek employment elsewhere. Some may wind up writing copy in marketing departments. Others may end up as the new sommelier of an over-reaching Denny’s. But most of you will find a home in the exciting world of public school teaching. Why teaching? Because today’s schools are so desperate for people willing to toil for a disgustingly low $16,000 a year that they’re more than happy to overlook the fact that you think “Marbury v. Madison” was a title bout. In fact, a few years back I myself taught a third-grade class and it was without a doubt one of the most fulfilling times in my life. We played games. We watched videos. We bet Danny Larkin couldn’t eat all the paste in his jar but then he did but then he couldn’t open his mouth so he got real scared but then it was lunch time and I had two big helpings of tater tots and a Hydrox cookie. Yes, we did it all. Except for any actual studying. But the kids didn’t seem to mind one bit. They would spend the day on the swing set or the slide or any of the other numerous outdoor activities at the McDonalds across the street while the gym teacher and I would take turns seeing who could hit the other the softest (only for it to always end with him laying a roundhouse into my jaw and shouting, “You win!”). All was going so well until the close of the school year when every single one of my students failed the state exam so spectacularly that they were not only denied moving up to the fourth grade but immediately placed in sweatshops, factories and loading docks. I still run into some of them at a local bar from time to time. We laugh and recall the old days but then the lunch hour ends and they have to drag their weary, 11-year-old bodies back to the pork rendering plant. Wow, 11-years-old and already fully employed. So you see, there’s hope for us all.

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